a VERY short game about a wormb3.97 / 5.00 5,910 Views
A vaguely familiar journey through a Transylvanian castle.3.87 / 5.00 4,231 Views
Spaceline Pilot is a very challenging space shooter.3.65 / 5.00 863 Views
It's been a wild ride and we are still alive to tell the tale. Below is a brief history of how Newgrounds came to be, and where it is going in the future.
Newgrounds was not originally intended for the web, but rather was a Neo Geo fanzine by the name of "New Ground", "Neo" being a synonym for "New", and "Geo" being a synonym for "Ground". I published New Ground from my parents' basement in Perkasie, PA, sending sporadic issues to somewhere around 100 subscribers. I was 13 at the time, which explains why I have so much faith in today's thirteen year olds.
In addition to Neo Geo game reviews and tips, New Ground was packed with funny comics that were made by editing scanned comics from video game manuals.
When I first obtained space to create my own web page, I immediately took on the New Ground name. The only problem was I wanted something more, to imply it was the next step. "Shin New Ground" was under consideration, but the final decision was "New Ground Remix". The page also went by the acronym NGR, which sounded to some like a racial slur. I was kinda pissed when I realized that.
I used up my "tfulp" webspace at fast.net, so I branched my content into my brother Wade's "wadef" space as well. I had various tidbits of goofy content, as well as a page for "OGRE Programming", which was the group my friends and I formed for programming local dial-up BBS games. Wade operated a dial-up BBS known as "Chaotic Order" and I produced exclusive games for it, such as Ambition and Nippon X!
New Ground Remix had some mildly interesting content, but was pointless until the last few weeks of the summer of 1996 when my friends had all left for college. It was in this time that I created Club a Seal and Assassin, the games that finally brought meaning to the name New Ground. A small NG cult followed.
As a student of Drexel University, I had a network connection in the dorms and not a modem. Because of this, I no longer had dial-up access to my home service provider, and could no longer access the New Ground Remix FTP server (they don't allow outside IPs to enter). In other words, I could no longer update New Ground Remix. During freshman year I didn't accomplish much, but I did start to work on a new layout for Assassin (this new layout would last until the summer of 1999).
During the winter of sophomore year, I got back on the ball and created Club a Seal II and "Assassin II" (no longer called that). I decided I needed a new place to house these great attractions, so New Ground Atomix was born on my Drexel webspace. There were now two separate and chaotic entities - NGR and NGA, with 2 versions of Club a Seal and Assassin to boot. Still on a roll, I produced Cat Dynamics and Beep Me Jesus. New Ground Atomix had taken on a solid form, kinda like how digested food becomes a turd.
I moved into an apartment in the spring and once again had direct dial-up access to my home service provider. It was at this point that I finally took the time to combine Assassin I and II into a single site. I still didn't bother to redirect users who were still going to Assassin I, so a bulk of traffic continued to ignore New Ground Atomix and stay in Remix instead. I wasn't very motivated, so my activity crawled to a stop and stayed that way until a few months later when I began experimenting with Macromedia Flash. A Flash front page was introduced to New Ground Atomix, and the now infamous Telebubby Fun Land was born.
On approximately September 20th, I received a call from Inside Edition. They wanted to do a piece on Assassin! I got very excited and quickly got back on the ball. I decided it was time for NGA to get its own domain name, so that when it appeared on the TV screen it was easy for viewers to remember the URL. The preferred name, "newground.com", was taken, so "newgrounds.com" was bought out of necessity. Club a Seal I and II were combined and users were redirected from the old sites to the new ones at newgrounds.com. I paid $33 per month out of pocket to host the site.
Inside Edition apparently lost interest in doing the story. This did not stop me, however, as I was ecstatic to have my own domain name. I continued to update the current features and traffic boomed. I had to change hosts to accommodate the traffic, and started producing t-shirts in an attempt to pay off hosting fees.
Things really skyrocketed when newgrounds.com was established in the fall of 1998. Throughout the next year, I had to change servers several times due to traffic. I began placing banner ads on the site in order to pay off the high server fees. Eventually, however, I was unable to make ends meet. My hosting company wanted over one thousand dollars per month, and I was dropped by my only good ad company due to NG having controversial content (yet now you see the same crap on MTV). Running out of options, I partnered with Troma, who were able to host the site in exchange for a cut of the ad revenue.
This year introduced some legal disagreements, most notably my little tiff with the BBC. The site had received global attention, having been featured in Yahoo Internet Life magazine, Stuff Magazine, Internet Tonight (ZDTV), wired.com (front page) and many other media outlets. Some backlash was inevitable.
This year also saw the introduction of Pico's School, hailed by many as the pinnacle of Flash 3 "programming". I say that in quotes because Flash 3 didn't offer much in terms of programming - it didn't even support variables. I came up with a very complex work-around for tracking events and data, making Pico the most advanced Flash 3 game I am aware of. It wasn't until Flash 4 that variables were introduced, and Pico would have been much easier to make. :)
The new year brought with it a tightened Newgrounds community. A general navbar was finally added to the top of each page, making it much easier to explore the site. I also added a chat room and message board, which further brought users to the forefront. Users became more addicted, and began to send me their own Flash creations. "The Portal" was created, where I manually selected and showcased quality Flash submissions. Users started sending in so many submissions that I didn't have time to view them all!
My friend Ross became an essential part of NG when he built the Grounds Gold system, which allowed users to gain points for visiting the site. Ross and I would have frequent Newgrounds discussions at the gym, the main topic being a system to automatically accept and showcase user submissions. The internet economy was booming, so I hired Ross and we got to work developing the automated Portal.
During this time, I left my job at Qwest and Ross and I both eventually stopped signing up for classes at Drexel - which I suppose made us drop-outs. Newgrounds became a full-time focus. The automated Portal was our dream. Its launch would forever change the face of Newgrounds, which, at that point, was still predominantly my personal showcase. The automated Portal opened the floor to much better artists, who submitted quality work that would soon surpass my own. Newgrounds was the first Flash showcase site of this type, which is what really helped establish it as THE place to show off your work.
It was also around this time that I met Shok, a Newgrounds fan who happened to be DJing at Shampoo (Philly club). We soon became good friends and teamed up to create the disturbingly funny FDA music videos. Shok and I teamed up for plenty of other exploits, such as the Newgrounds party.
Ross coded a new message board from the ground up, integrating it with our existing user system. All of the new back-end systems required an increasing amount of maintenance, so I hired my brother Wade to help keep the site running. Wade had always been an active, dedicated user of the site, so he was the perfect choice to help keep an eye on everything that went on.
We still had some extra cash, so I hired my friend Andy Brozyna on a temporary basis to do some art for the site. Andy had worked for a company that recently went out of business, and had only a few months left in Philly before moving to DC. During that time we introduced the Newgrounds tank logo, as well as level icons to denote user voting power. By the end of 2000, Newgrounds had one of the most active user communities on the internet. I was employing three people on a full-time basis!
This was the year when the internet bubble burst. We watched almost every major internet entertainment site (aka competitor) go out of business, while struggling to keep ourselves afloat. Andy had already moved to DC as planned, so there were just three of us remaining. Ad revenue dried up, and we struggled to make ends meet. The corporate bank account was diminished, and Ross took on a second job, continuing to work for Newgrounds part-time.
We continued to keep the site updated, and I continued to work on games - releasing features such as Crazy Shuttle, Captain Low-Rez and Disorderly. I even managed to whip out code for Mason's Bubble Blast and Sack Smash 2001 at the end of the year, despite being in a really crappy mood about the downturn.
The year started off on a sad note. The cumbersome Newgrounds servers were never upgraded, which made it nearly impossible to work on the site. I had resorted to running adult ads to cover payroll, and that didn't help our image very much. Ross's new job had taken priority in his life, and it was time for him to move on.
The new lean and mean Newgrounds consisted of just me and Wade. The automated Portal continued to chug along, thanks to Ross's exceptional work. We sometimes joke that none of us would have to work on NG anymore, and the site would still keep running. In reality, the site needs infinite amounts of maintenance. A lot of that would probably go away if we blocked AOL users (no offense guys, but come on).
The year 2002 wasn't coming along nearly as well as the previous two years. Newgrounds remained popular, but growth was stagnant and the motivation to go on was overpowered by impossibly slow servers and lack of back-end (database) programming talent.
One good thing did come from this downturn - Ross and I both went back to school at Drexel. I finally graduated, receiving a BS in Information Systems. School kept me busy during this time, but Wade and I kept the site updated and I kept making games. I teamed up with Dan Paladin (then known best as Synj) to produce Alien Hominid, one of my proudest programming achievements to-date!
Upon getting my degree, I moved down to Atlanta for a change of scenery. This left Ross at his new job and Wade back in PA, officially breaking up any semblence of a local NG operation. Atlanta was an awesome city; I'm glad I moved around a bit while I was still young!
Newgrounds has always been a joy to run, but the lack of growth was really getting us down. Out of the blue, something amazing happened. I was talking to an old on-line buddy, James, when he offered to take a look at some of our PHP. It turned out that over the years, James had become quite a whiz with PHP and database-related programming. I soon gave James more things to look at, and it wasn't long before we gave him the keys to the kingdom; direct access to the Newgrounds servers.
James tore in like an animal, overhauling and optimizing everything in sight. The site began to perform better than it had for the past year and we were implementing fresh new features. Reaching a new peak in usage, we finally got Troma to shell out for some of the server upgrades we had always wanted. The site was running better than it had in the past two years and I finished off December with the release of three games: Domo-Kun's Angry Smashfest, Chainsaw the Children and Sack Smash 2003!
The effects of the Internet crash were still being felt across the globe. Our bandwidth bills were huge and ad revenue wasn't. In February, Troma released us from our affiliate contract and ceased operation of the Tromaville Network. We were given full control of the servers in NYC, which included the Tromaville Network server containing numerous Tromaville and Newgrounds affiliate sites. We continued to host these sites until 2005, when some troublesome affiliates took advantage of the free ride and led to our decision to give most of them the boot. We still host a few of the original NG affiliate sites to this day.
Having closed down their internet operations, Troma no longer needed their sys admin, who continued to help Newgrounds by maintaining our servers in NYC on a part-time basis. I was finally in full control of site-wide advertising, which meant I could better manage the ads and collect checks directly. Our hosting bills were cut to a fraction of what they were previously, thanks to cheap new bandwidth plans made available by Cogent Communications. We finally started making some real money!
This was the perfect time to upgrade our hosting infrastructure, because we had just launched the Audio Portal, which allows independent musicians to showcase their work and have it featured in web games and movies. To support continued growth, we bought a new database server and added a bunch of new webservers. Old 4U (four shelves of rackspace) servers were replaced with new, faster 1U (one shelf) servers. Even then, our single cabinet looked like it would become full in the near future.
March 21st marked the day when Wade became a Dad and I became an Uncle! I made the trip up from Atlanta to visit, and found a house in the process. It was time for me to move back to the Philly area and put down some roots for NG.
On April 1st, Dan Paladin and I partnered up with some of his co-workers in San Diego, to form the Behemoth and make a console version of Alien Hominid! This was no April Fools joke, though. Making a console game is serious business! I went on to spend the rest of my year and much of 2004 working on this project.
In mid April, we launched the multi-author system. This allowed Dan and I to both finally share credits on Alien Hominid and opened the door for many other team projects.
I flew out to San Diego in June to meet the Behemoth team face-to-face for the first time and attend E3 in LA. I also happened to meet Trent Reznor! It was a very brief meeting. This trip marked the first of many trips to San Diego over the next year and a half. I would fly out for weeks at a time, working 16 hour days and sleeping at the office. Did I mention console games are serious business?
June also marked the official hiring of James as a full-time NG staff member! This was the first time since the dot com crash that I was able to hire a new full-time staff member. It was a great feeling to be back in action.
In July, long-time Portal contributor Will Stamper surprised us with a hot new front page redesign. It took our look to a whole new professional level! It also made us pretty dependent on Stamper for all future site design work… How sneaky! We continued to "Stamperize" other parts of the site, although for many months the overall site experience was very inconsistent.
Eventually, Francois took a new job in NYC that started immediately and kept him too busy to manage the NG servers. We realized it was time to move Newgrounds to Philly and finally take on 100% of the responsibility for NG hosting. Philly real estate is a lot cheaper than NYC, so we were able to get two cabinets for the cost of the one we had in NYC. On the day after Halloween (Nov. 1st), my friend Tim and I drove a rental SUV into Manhattan, packed up over 20 large pieces of hardware, and transported them back to the new facility in Philly.
Moving the site to a new city was a big task - it required getting the space set up at the new facility, as well as coordinating for the bandwidth provider to switch us over on the day of the move. Everyone had to work together to get everything in place, but the final transition was relatively flawless. The site was back up that same day.
Over the course of the year, we bumped our bandwidth cap from 100mbps to 300mbps. Our Cogent hosting fees reached five figures per month, making the ads necessary as always.
It was an amazing year, but I was bummed out that I didn't release any new Flash games. I made a commitment to myself that I would not start any other programming projects until Alien Hominid was finished - a decision that came back to bite me. We hoped to have AH finished in September, but it was taking much longer than anticipated. The end result was worth all the work, though!
Having moved back to the Philadelphia area, I started getting serious about finding an office.
After a long dry spell, 2004 is the year when revenue really started to kick in for Newgrounds. I'm not talking millions of dollars, but definitely enough to keep things moving. I narrowed my office search to the Glenside area, just north of Philadelphia.
In January, Dan Paladin moved to the Philadelphia area so that we could get hardcore with developing Alien Hominid for consoles. The rest of the team was still out in San Diego, so regular trips were still necessary and they stretched for weeks at a time.
The local crew continued to grow, as Stamper moved up from Florida in July and became an official member of the NG staff. Having Stamper around helped us get more serious about the visual presentation of NG. We continued to work towards making the site design consistent; at one point, we had three generations of layouts all intermixed. A new nav was introduced in August and we worked tirelessly to make sure it was consistent across most of the site. Stamper "Stamperized" parts of NG that had been neglected and re-Stamperized his 2003 layout to fit the new look.
This was the year of the Time Trials. The Time Trials were started by Luis and some friends, who had the idea of giving authors a short deadline to produce animations around a central theme. The end results were collaborative submissions where multiple artists were featured and credited, using our multi-author credit system. The collaborative submission concept soon grew beyond the Time Trials and became known as the more general NG Collab. We originally built the multi-author system for teams of artists and programmers; it was cool to see the massive collaborations that came about as a result.
In September, I moved from my house on the border of North Philly (not the nicest area) to a house in Glenside. I figured if I was gonna make a base in Glenside, I should live there too!
I hired my friend Tim as the full-time sys admin, which was really important considering how much hardware we have and how much attention it needs. Tim had been previously assisting me on a volunteer basis, as Stamper had done with site design in the past. It was great to finally hire the people who had given so much to NG in the past!
We continued to upgrade the site hardware to meet demand, although our expansion resulted in technical issues at times. By the end of the year, we were consuming 500mbps of bandwidth!
The development of Alien Hominid continued to drag on for most of 2004. Not only were we developing the game, we were developing merchandise as well. We produced t-shirts and figures and sold them at Comic-Con while showcasing a nearly finished version of AH. Check out my Comic-Con 2004 coverage!
It all came to a grand finale in November, when Alien Hominid finally hit stores. Who would have thought that would ever happen? Seeing it on the shelves was a very euphoric feeling, although I still say nothing beats the rush of submitting a new Flash to NG. :)
The year wasn't over yet! December 6, 2004… A day that will live on in infamy… The day Numa Numa Dance made its internet premier right here on Newgrounds. No one anticipated how much press and popularity would follow.
With Alien Hominid on shelves, I was really scrambling to get some new games of my own on the web. Dan and I had been working to release "Dad 'n Me", a game where you beat up kids on the playground. Jose and I were also working on another long awaited project, that I no longer talk about anymore because I don't want to tease anyone (although I guess I just did).
Immediately after Slamdance, I visited James in London for a weekend!
We celebrated April Fools this year by changing the site to Numagrounds, a spoof on the popularity of Numa Numa Dance. I need to dig up a picture of our header. That same day, John and I flew out to England to meet with Zoo Digital, our European publisher for Alien Hominid. We stayed with James' (LilJim) parents in Doncaster for most of the trip, although by day we were in Sheffield. We spent our last leg of the trip in Manchester, doing press interviews. I've been to London a few times, but it was nice to finally tour Sheffield, Doncaster and Manchester! It was also great to see James, who then followed up with a visit to the US before the month was over!
In May, I went out to LA with the Behemoth team for E3. The coolest thing had to be all the copies of Game Developer magazine floating around - Alien Hominid was on the front cover!
June 17th was the first ever NG Mod Meetup! A ton of NG mods came to Philly and stayed at the Embassy Suites. What followed was a lot of drinking, walking and good times overall.
In July, I flew out to LA to make a one week appearance as guest host on Attack of the Show, a daily show on G4TV and a live broadcast! I really need to put a page together with pictures and videos from the appearance. After my last appearance, I drove down to San Diego to prep for Comic-Con, which was the following week. We were selling copies of Alien Hominid but also unveiling a sneak peak at our new console game! Check out my Comic-Con 2005 wrap-up!
July was a busy month overall, as July's tend to be. The grand finale was the release of a new game I made with Dan Paladin. Go play Dad 'n Me!
In August, James finished coding a new content management system which allows us to more easily categorize content without digging through HTML code and FTP. We also started allowing authors to upload their own icons, and James made tools to submit icons, so that users could help us fill in missing icons from years past!
To celebrate back-to-school time, we had an NG Campus Promo contest, where users were asked to creatively promote Newgrounds on campus. Check out the winners! You haven't seen it all until you've seen StrawberryClock riding a train.
On September 16th, I proposed to my girlfriend April while we were on vacation in Las Vegas. I did it after dinner at the Eiffel Tower Resaurant, overlooking the Bellagio fountains! April said yes and the wedding is set for May 12, 2007. I LOVE YOU APRIL!!!
In October, I made another guest appearance on Attack of the Show, this time to show highlights from our Halloween 2005 collection. We received tons of great submissions this year! If NG keeps getting better every year, I can't even imagine how good it will be in 2006.
For years now, I've talked of my dreams to have a Newgrounds HQ. That finally happened, when I found a building to call home for NG. We moved to the office in mid October and final settlement on the building was mid November. I put together a page about the early setup at the office! Stamper also produced a wonderful video of us smashing through walls with our feet.
Towards the end of the year, Josh from the Behemoth team moved here all the way from San Diego. He'll be working in the NG office, to facilitate console game development. We also hired Jeff Bandelin (johnny_utah), the artist who won our Opie & Anthony contest. Jeff formerly worked for Camp Chaos and is an AMAZING artist; expect to see more from him in 2006. Stamper is also working on a bunch of projects in the new office and Jose Ortiz (Mindchamber) will be making the commute from Brooklyn to work here three days a week. Tim the sys admin now has a lot more room for working on servers.
In December, John and I traveled to France to share our new console game with potential publishers! While I was in France, we celebrated Denvish Day on NG. My contribution was Denvish Diving. I came back with a stomach bug that lasted for two weeks, could have been the raw meat.
Also worth noting is that we started showcasing Audio Portal submissions on the front page. The Audio Portal is a very important part of Newgrounds and often waits on the backburner while other features are developed. We greatly appreciate all the support we have received from musicians and I'm sorry for the neglect! The final noteworthy item of the year is our Christmas 2005 collection. We received more holiday submissions than ever before! Bandwidth usage exceeded 800mbps during peak hours.
We started the new year all settled in at the office, with a lot on our plates. We have huge plans for 2006! In January, I converted the entire Grounds Gold layout to full page layouts rather than a pop-up window. This solved problems we were having with pop-up blockers, but more importantly, it paves the road for some of the big new features we will be launching this year. The pop-up was just too small for all the BIG things we want to do!
We unveiled an new version of the tank logo! From left to right, Old vs. New!
One of the best things about the new office is now we have room for interns. Our first office intern is from Temple University and also happens to be named Tom.
LisVender, a Newgrounds contributor, met Weird Al as a result of one of his submissions! It turns out Matt Groening's (creator of the Simpsons) son is an NG fan and Matt showed Weird Al the submission during a Simpson's party. This has to be one of my favorite stories ever. :)
In March, Dan and I won an award for Dad 'n Me - best web game of the year! We won the award at the Independent Games Festival, in San Jose.
April 30th, in addition to being my birthday, marked the first ever Pico Day! We received a ton of great fan-made Pico submissions, and gave out over $6,000 in cash prizes.
The summer of 2006 marked a big moment for the NG team: The return of Ross! That's right, we've got Ross AND James on the team now, so things are looking bright.
July marked another year at Comic-Con in San Diego. Next year we plan to have two booths, one for Newgrounds and one for the Behemoth. It will be a big turning point! Just a month later in August, I found myself in Seattle for the Penny Arcade Expo. Read all about it!